Necromancy and Burial Ceremony in Isampou

by Prezi Isaac Enetimi
September 21, 2015IMG_20151023_210443-1-1


In all known human societies, there are several cultural practices found among them. And so, necromancy and burial practices are not exceptional, they are cultural practices found in many societies. Necromancy is a special mode of divination by the evocation of the dead. The practice of necromancy supposes belief in the survival of the soul after death, the possession of a superior knowledge by the disembodied spirit, and the possibility of communication- Such as time, place, and rites to be followed-depend on the various conceptions which were entertained concerning the nature of the departed soul, its abode, its relation with the earth and with the body in which it previously resided. As divinities frequently were but human heroes raised to the rank of gods, necromancy, mythology, and demonology are in close relation, and the oracles of the dead are not always easily distinguished from the oracles of the gods. (Dubray, C.1911).

However, the practice of necromancy tends to influence burial practices in many societies, if not all, where it’s practiced. In Africa, this was very pronounced; although there are still communities or societies where necromancy is widely   practiced as part of their cultural practices. While in other societies, it is not generally accepted as one of their cultural practices. But people still individually practice it. And sometimes, if the death of an individual is so sudden and seems unnatural, people tend to meet a necromancer to know the cause of the death.

Studies have shown that, necromancy determine the type of burial ceremony to be given to a deceased (person) in Ijaw land. This practice was common in Isampou community before the advent of Christianity. People tend to know the cause of death of a person. And even burial was influenced by the outcome or result, through the practice of necromancy.

Some of the dead were thrown to the river or evil forest (seibou). If the person was possessed with witchcraft or has killed some one through any means. But if the person is confirmed free of witchcraft that is when a befitting burial would be given to him or her.


In the world of the dark arts, necromancy is by far one of the darkest. Necromancy is the practice of an attempted communication with the dead. It is also said that necromancy is used to try and predict the future. If people in general were able to communicate with the dead as they pleased could you imagine the impact it would have on our society? Underground groups have kept this under wraps for as long as they have been around. The darks arts aren’t just performed by dark individuals it can also be used for food. People like to communicate with lost loved ones to get closure on their lives or just to reach out to a loved one. The darker individuals use it to conjure something evil. (Phantom Seekers, 2015).

However, the practice of necromancy in every known society has resulted in certain problems. The dark energy harnessed by necromancers are used to instill fear, pain, blood lust, and sometimes is used to forcefully enslave its victims.

The practice of necromancy in an attempt to knowing the cause of death has also resulted in labeling of bad names. Some families have been labeled with witchcraft, thus, members of that family are seen like that; may be because the father or mother was necrotized to be the killer of somebody through witchcraft or other diabolic means. Or better still, the father or mother was confirmed possessing witchcraft spirit. As a result, the children’s relationship or association with other members/ people in the community (society) is greatly influenced by this. They (children) feel isolated and relegated and sometimes feeling guilt for having evil parents. This is greatly affecting social relationship such as marriage, friendship, business partnership etc.

Furthermore, this practice also contribute to conflict/divisions in communities; as children may want their father or mother to be given a befitting burial, but for the fact that their father or mother was confirmed in possession of witchcraft, the community would want to throw their dead bodies in the river. This also causes conflict among their father/mother to be buried properly not believing their father or mother as such, with the rest of them would want their fathers/mothers corpse to be thrown away thereby causing division among them.

Sometimes necromancy practice lead to a great fight in community or among families and also result to murder cases in court. Imagine Mr. ‘A’ is dead now. Someone summons him (Mr. ‘A’) because of inheritance. And Mr. ‘A’ tells such person, that he won the lottery (huge bulk money) and the pile of money is stored in specific destination. But twist, none of it is true. How a one known Mr. A is a liar or not? Or Mr. ‘A’ has been murdered by Mr. ‘B’. But Mr. ‘A’ hates Mr. ‘C’ unknown. What happens if Mr. ‘A’ says he has been murdered by Mr. ‘C’ unknown? Looking at these cases, necromancy has caused fights among families, communities and groups.

Some people are buried honourably while some are buried disgracefully although necromancy. Therefore, this study is embarked upon to give explanations of the nature of necromancy and burial ceremonies as cultural practices and their interrelations and to suggest possible ways to curb these problems.


This study generally seeks to examine the inter-relation between necromancy and burial ceremonies as cultural practices in Isampou. Specifically the study has the following objectives:

  1. To examine the nature of Necromancy and Burial ceremonies as cultural practices in Isampou.
  2. To investigate the influence of Necromancy of burial ceremonies (funerals) in Isampou.


  1. What is the nature of Necromancy and Burial ceremonies as cultural practices in Isampou?
  2. What is the influence of Necromancy on burial ceremonies (funerals) in Isampou)?


  1. Necromancy: ‘Etymologically’ the word ‘Necromancy’ is adapted from late Latin necromantia, itself borrowed from post-classical Greek nekromanteia; a compound of Ancient Greek ‘nekros, “dead body” and ‘manteia’, “prophecy or divination. Hence, necromancy is the divination of dead body (OED 3rd ed. 2003).

According to ‘Merriam-Webster’s collegiate Dictionary’ “Necromancy or Nigromancy is a form of magic involving communication with raising them bodily for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, or to use the deceased as a weapon, as the term may some times be used in a more general sense to refer to black magic or witchcraft.

             2.   Necromancer: This refers to one who practices divination by conjuring up the dead. (WorldNet 3.0)

         3. Burial: This refers to the act or ceremony of burying a dead person in a grave (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary).

Burial or interment is the ritual act of placing a dead person or animal, sometimes with objects, into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing the deceased and objects in it, and covering over. (Philip, L.1991).

       4. Ceremony: A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin via the Latin Caerinonia. (Grimes, R.L 2002).

          5. Burial Ceremony (Funeral): Otherwise known as funeral is a ceremony for honoring, respecting, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died. Funerary customs comprises the complex of beliefs and practices used by a culture to remember the dead, from interment itself, to various monument, prayers, and rituals undertaking in their honor. Customs vary widely both between cultures and between religious groups and denominations within cultures. Common secular motivations for funerals include mourning the deceased, celebrating their life, and offering support and sympathy to the bereaved. Additionally, funerals often have religious aspect which is intended to help the soul of the deceased reach the afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation. (Hoy, W. G. 2013).

         6. Cultural Practices: Cultural practice generally refers to the manifestation of a culture or sub-culture, especially in regard to the traditional and customary practices of a particular ethnic or other cultural group in the broadest sense, this term can apply to any person manifesting any aspect of any culture at any time.

However, in practical usage it commonly refers to the traditional practices developed within specific ethnic cultures, especially those aspects of culture that have been practiced since ancient times (Currie A. & George K. 1994).


Necromancy is viewed historically from three dimensions;

            1.  Ancient Necromancy

The act of necromancy was widespread in the ancient world and the practice has existed from prehistoric times.

Early necromancy likely originated as an outgrowth of Shamanism, which propitiated the spirits/ghosts of ancestors. Classical necromancers addressed the dead in “a mixture of high-pitch squeaking and low droning” comparable to the trace-state muttering of shamans. (Kieckhefer,1998).

The historian Strabo refers to necromancy as the principal from of divination amongst the people of Persia (Strabo, Xvi 2, 39), and it is believed to also have been widespread amongst the peoples of Chaldean particularly amongst the Sabians or starworshippers), Etrusia, and Babylonia. The Babylonian necromancers were called Manzazuu or Sha’etemmu, and the spirits they raised were called Etemmu.

For the ancient Greeks, necromancy was also a popular practice in the Odyssey (Xi, Nekyia), Odysseus makes a voyage of Hades, the underworld and raises the spirits of the dead using spells which he had learnt from Circe (Ruickbie 2004, 24). His intention is to invoke and ask questions of the shade of Tiresians, but he is unable to summon it without the assistance of others. Although some cultures may have considered the knowledge of the dead to be unlimited, to the ancient Greeks and Romans, there was an indication that individual shades knew only certain things. (Ibid). There are also references to necromancers called “bone-conjurers”, in the bible. The book of Deuteronomy (Xviii 9-12) explicitly warns the Israelites against the Canaanite practice of divination from the dead. This warning was not always heeded; King Saul has the witch of Endor invoke the shade of Samuel using a magical amulet, for example. Later Christian writers rejected the idea that humans could bring back the spirit of the dead, and interpreted such shades as disguised demons, thus conflating necromancy with demon-summoning. This conflation seems to be a flagrant misread of the biblical texts. In the Hebraic mindset, the dead could be called to speak to the living.

             2. Medieval Necromancy

In the middle ages, the literate members of European society were either the nobles or Christian clergy. Either of these groups may have been responsible for the propagation and ongoing practice of necromancy, even though it was forbidden in Christianity. It is apparent that necromancy was not a method of witchcraft. It may have been only available to the scholarly class of Europe, because of the accessibility, languages or clergy members that it employs.

The possibility exists that literate Europeans were the main forces simultaneously practicing and condemning necromancy. The language, execution and format of the rituals illustrated in the Munich Handbook (Kiechhefer 42-51) are strikingly similar to Christian rites. In a Christian exorcism, various demons and spirits are driven away by name, in the name of God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The spells of necromancy are very similar to these Christian rites (Kieckhefer 128-129) in their complete opposition. The distortion of the rites spells is within the scope of Christian understanding at that time. Necromantic spells were mainly illusory or utility spells.

Most forms of satanic necromancy today include prayers to such demons, namely Nebiros, Azrael, and Zebub. The seven necromancy as consisting of “diabolical commerce with unclean spirits, in rites of criminal curiosity, in illicit and invocations of the dead”.

             3.  Modern Necromancy

Modern séances, channeling and spiritualism verge on necromancy when the invoked spirits are asked to reveal future events. Necromancy may also be dressed up as sciomancy, a branch of theurgic magic. Necromancy is extensively practiced in Quimbanda and is sometimes seen in other African traditions such as Voodoo and in Santeria, though once a person is possessed by a spirit in the Yoruba tradition he cannot rise to a higher spiritual position such as that of a babalawo.

Necromancy in general looking at it from the ancient, miedvial and modern necromancy involves the divination of the dead for either foretelling a future event or sometimes to cause harm to victims in this part of the world particularly in Ijaw land. Predominantly, necromancy is used to know the cause of dead or to find out the spiritual position of a deceased person.


Death is deeply felt and mourned but highly honored and celebrated for those who deserve it. Weeping signals the demise of someone in a family or town while firing of three guns or four guns respectively, signals the death of a male adult or female adult of good will. Solemn funeral dirges are sung and dances are generally staged in varying stages according to the popularity or importance of the deceased.

Weeping for the dead and subsequent firing of guns go on for days and months while in the case of some influential persons or priest, it continues up to a year. Before the first guns for the dead are fire oracle consultation with the dead by means of bamboo ladder is made to prove the deceased’s possession or other wise of witchcraft results in an ignominious burial. The act of consulting or conjuring with the dead to find the cause of death is no longer practiced at the advent of Christianity. (Woyingidinikpete G.Y. 2006).

Ways or forms of burial vary according to the status of the deceased and to the nature of the death. Priests are buried in separate cemeteries consecrated to them and are accorded the highest burial ceremonies. Slaves were buried at cemeteries set apart for them the while children of certain ages are buried at children cemeteries.

People who died of violent deaths other than of deceased with its attendant causes are buried in separate cemeteries in bare bodies, without being caged into coffins or other coverings, proven wizards and witches, people who die with sores on while still suffering from yaws (contagious skin diseases) as well as children who are now buried at sandbanks or at the slopes of banks of rivers at high floods.

Men who die of hydrocele or of other diseases while they are still suffering from hydrocele can only be properly buried in cemeteries after their scrotums are either reduced or removed and certain ceremonies of purification are performed. People who hang themselves cannot be properly buried in good cemeteries except when dogs are hanged in atonement of such violent dead of theirs and other necessary ceremonies are performed. All deceased people who cannot receive proper burials at their death due to one reason or the other can later be accorded post-burial it appropriate ceremonies of purification are performed for them.

Women married under the “Big-dowry” system are buried at their husbands land at their death, but corpses of women married under the small-dowry-system are taken to their father’s land for burial. Corpses of women married under whatever system from Kabu, Kumbo, Tarakiri and a few other places are generally transported to their father’s land for burial. In Kolokuma and some other clans of Izon, corpses of men born of the small dowry-system were taken in the past, to their mother’s lands for burial. The practice was stopped by King Amaran of Kaima and now all male people are buried at their father’s land (Ibid).

These are the nature of the burial practices in Bayelsa State. Although some have stopped entirely like the demoing and throwing into rivers of corpses especially proof of witchcraft and those of the children and people with diseases.


In this study, data were collected through in depth interview using the ‘key informant interview method’ (KII) method and observation as primary sources and with the use of text books, documentations, internet etc. as the secondary sources of data collection. In depth interview is a qualitative research techniques that involves conducting intensive individual interviews with a small number of respondents to explore their perspectives on a particular idea, program, or situation.


Before the conclusions of this study will be made, we shall analyze the data of this study using the qualitative content analysis method. In content analysis, analyses are based on the context of the responses of the respondents that is construction of meaning is based on what the respondents have said.

The analysis of finding will be based on the research objectives as stated in 1.3.


Research Objective 1: To examine the nature of necromancy and burial ceremonies as cultural practices in Isampou.

Research Question 1:  What is the nature of necromancy and burial ceremonies as cultural practices in Isampou?

The nature of necromancy in Isampou is based on the belief which hinged on three fundamental principles.

  • You are killed by a witch
  • You are a witch
  • Your death is natural

The way necromancy was carried out if a man/ woman die according to chief Paul Okou (one of the Chiefs in Isampou) “a seer (necromancer) will be invited to consult oracles with the dead by means of bamboo ladder in order to prove the deceased possession of witchcraft. When it is confirmed that the deceased is with a proof of dispossession of witchcraft, there would be firing of gun shots and cheers. But when confirmed otherwise, the deceased would not be given a normal burial ceremony. And if the dead, person was confirmed killed by a witch/wizard, the people responsible (the witch/wizard) will be disgraced publicly”. In Isampou, as a participant observer, I noticed that they will dig a pit and bury the witch/wizard to the neck and especially the youth will be flogging them until they too affirm that they are responsible. But today this practice is no more because of Christianity and the changing patterns of the world (urbanization/modernization).

Burial ceremony is done in night and the following day the corpse will be buried. But some denominations like the Anglican Church have changed it to a day funeral and longer in the night. Day burial started in Isampou in 2008 with the researcher’s ground mother, Late Mrs. Eselemowuru Agbede. Although some churches still do their funerals in the day.

In Isampou, the aged (people who have seen grand-children, great-grandchildren) are buried in the community, while those who die without seeing grand/great-grandchildren from the ages of 50 down are buried across the community. The under-aged and people who die untimely are not given elaborate burial ceremonies (funerals) because of the pain felt by people. But the aged are given elaborate funerals depending on the economic position of the deceased family.


Research Objective 2: To investigate the influence of necromancy on burial ceremonies (funerals) in Isampou.

Research Questions 2: What is the influence of necromancy on burial ceremonies (funerals) in Isampou?

Since necromancy is based on the belief on three fundamental principles. You are killed by a witch, you are a witch and your death is natural, according to Chief Felix, Prezi “the only way to determine this is through the after death enquiry. This is when the dead does not lie, does not feel ashamed hence will stand to tell the truth”.

Necromancy is to ascertain the type and level of burial that should be accorded to the deceased member of the community. In Isampou, before now and even now partially, burial is community affair. (The witches are evil agents sent by evil gods to ruin an destroy lives and society. These willing vessels accursed demons should be punished at death). If on necromancy, it is discovered that the deceased is a witch, the body is taken to the evil forest where it is buried naked, irrespective of the age and statues the deceased held in the society while alive. The casket is thrown into the river under the watchful eyes of the villagers and the corpse is either dumped in the Seibou (evil forest) or as well thrown the river.

In some critical cases, necromancy is used as an ultimate form of oracle consultation and divinity. “Some controversial deaths in Isampou were forced to be necrotized”. (An oral interview with Chief Tenis B. 2015). I think this is major source of conflict between the Christian faith and the pagans. The Christians abhor necromancy in its entirety because it is fetish and magical. Hence, Christians should not be necrotized at death nor partake while alive. This is a major contribution to the rapid demise of necromancy as a cultural practice in Isampou. Although, even today, in some untimely death of influential or well behaved people, some members of the family still go to necromancers to view mirrors to know whosoever/whatever responsible for the person’s death, (Temidei-ti) necromancy is no longer seen as cultural practices. In fact today, in Isampou anyone caught in the act of necromancy (individually) especially going to the grave-yards to conjure with the dead for charm or magical powers is publicly punished by flogging and sometimes handing them over to the police.

Conclusively, the practice of necromancy in Isampou was a determining factor of burial ceremonies. The out come of necromancy had always determined the kind of burial or funeral to be given to a deceased (person). But today, with increasing population of Christians and the changing patterns of society necromancy no longer determine burial ceremony as it is no longer practiced by the people as part of their cultural practices. Now, age is the determining factor. When dies, if he or she is of a good age (having children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and even more is full of age) is given good and sometimes elaborate burial ceremony or funeral or better wake- keep depending on the status the deceased or the buoyancy of the deceased family. And they are buried in the community while those who die without the aforementioned characteristics are buried across the community with or without a ceremony (wake-keep) depending on the age.


Currie A. & George K. (1994) the Nizkor project Ethnocultural Groups & the Justice System min Canada. A Review of Issues Department of Justice Canada Working Document.

Dubray, C. (1911). Necromancy in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 5, 2015 from New Advent: http://www.

Grimes R. L (2002) “Ritual” In Will Braun, Russel T. McCutcheon. Guide to the stud of religion. Continuum International Publishing Group. P. 260.

Hoy, E. G. (2013). Do funerals matter? Purpose and practices of Death Rituals in Global Perspective Routledge.

Kiechhefer R. (1998) Forbidden Rites. A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth century. Pennsylvania State University Press.

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed). Springfield, MA: Merriam-webster. April, 2008.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) (3rd ed) Oxford, UK Oxford University press September, 2003.

Philip L. (1991), Uniquely Human. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Ruicklae, Leo, Witchcraft out of the Shadows. Robert Hale 2004

WordNet 3.0, Farlex Clipart collection © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex inc.

Woyengidinikpet G. Y (2006) Bayelsa the Glory of All Lands At 10. SAMTOB Productions Oshodi, Lagos.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s